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AoL 002: Don’t Let Your Past Dictate Your Future with Trin A’Marti

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Tribute to Scott Dinsmore: Making Life Decisions with Your Dreams in Mind

“It’s insecurity that is always chasing you and standing in the way of your dreams.” – Vin Diesel

I heard the news last Tuesday night about Scott Dinsmore’s passing after I had published the last post. If you didn’t know who Scott was and what he was about, then you need to watch the above video just to get a glimpse into how he lead his life. Talk about passion.

There are many tribute pieces to him around the web from some of his closest friends.

So I’ll let them speak about what he personally meant to them:

Personally, I didn’t know Scott too much. I’ve learned more about him after his passing than I did when he was still around. I feel it is extremely unfortunate. I feel as if I have lost a friend that I didn’t get to know because we had such a similar passion in helping others release their inner passions.

I was going through his posts to get more of a feel for the guy. And I have to admit that this recent one struck me in particular:

How to Avoid Making the Wrong Big Decisions (like choosing the wrong path).

When it came to making big life decisions, he didn’t believe that you had to jump completely in. In fact, he believed that we should simply test the waters before we go all into big life decisions.

I couldn’t agree more.

Yet, some of us will find fault with even doing just that much. We might have chosen a path because that’s what we felt was ultimately the best choice based on personal bias and beliefs. Does that make it truly the best one for us?

The truth is while we want to choose the right path for us, we all have personal biases that will make it easier to stay on the path we are currently on. Many times that “auto-path” is dictated by external forces which don’t know or care about the life we’re trying to lead.

“If we don’t know what we’re looking for, we’re never going to find it.” – Scott Dinsmore

Seeing Life Decisions From Different Angles

We all know that sometimes we don’t feel like we’re free to just “do our own thing”. Especially when it comes to making decisions regarding our careers.

In fact, here are some thoughts you might be having which prohibit you from following your dreams:

  • I’m sacrificing my dreams so my kids don’t have to.
  • I’m doing this because it was what my parents always wanted to do, but didn’t get the chance to.
  • I chose this career, and damn it, hell or high water, I’m going to make it work!
  • I don’t want to waste MORE time getting ANOTHER degree!

Do any of these sound familiar? I know that I have several friends that subscribe to the first one. I know a few who claim the second. And I was definitely a candidate for the third and fourth reasons myself.

Are these actually true? Or are these self imposed restraints and beliefs that we’ve placed to protect ourselves from potential future “failures”? Where did we get these ideas? Were they from us or others?

To find out the best path in life for you, you need to be able to see the problem from multiple angles and even more specifically, how does it affect your overall life goals? Each one of the above statements could be reframed as a question in regards to your personal goals.

  • If I want to be a good role model for my kids, how is not following my dreams being a good example?
  • Is the world the same as it was when my parents wanted to have that role? Even so, why should I let them dictate what I do?
  • Am I letting my pride and ego get the best of me? Why can’t I be the next great story of someone making a big transition?
  • What if you’re wasting more time (and money) by not following your true gifts? Also, who said anything about getting another degree?

However, if you don’t know what you want out of life and your career, then you won’t ask yourself these types of questions.

With these questions asked, will you think differently about your situation? I’m sure you will. (In fact, these last two questions are what have helped set me free of my old path.)

It’s when you start asking questions like these and questioning the status quo on goals in life, whether or not your current path is working out for you or not. Don’t let your personal bias and your past dictate your future. Be open, present, and truthful with yourself when making big decisions.

Homework:

The next time you feel yourself thinking about a big life decision and coming to a conclusion, ask yourself if you looked at it from every angle you could think of in regards to it affecting your life goals.

Was it a signing up for a mini-marathon? Was it about getting more serious with your current significant other? Was it about taking a job that paid more?

Naturally, without knowing specific goals, these all seem like they would be good things in your life to do if you have the opportunity.

But that might not be the case:

If you sign up for a mini-marathon too late and unprepared, your body isn’t going to appreciate it. You just can’t wing it.

If you want to get more serious with someone you have conflicts with regularly… is that the best person you could get serious with?

If a job is going to pay more but it makes you relocate AND makes you work more hours – is that really helping you towards your goals and aspirations?

Next time you have a great opportunity, think more about how it affects the dreams that you’ve set out to achieve, and less about the immediate impact of it.

Why You Should Stop Being A Victim and Learn How to Forgive

The fact is, violence is not only not a beautiful thing, but it’s also very painful and not without consequences for the perpetrator as well as the victim.Clint Eastwood

There really is no difference between the bully and the victim.Lady Gaga

Did you know that if you hold grudges that you’re actually letting the person or people you have that grudge against win? Let’s discuss how you can stop being a victim so you can learn how to be yourself again.

The Rise of the Victimhood Culture

I was recently made aware of a post that was published last Friday (9/11/15) about The Rise of Victimhood Culture. In it, the author, Conor Friedersdorf, talks about a new scholarly paper (Microaggression and Moral Cultures, Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning) that actually identifies that a culture of victimhood is indeed on the rise – especially in college settings.

He also mentions three types of culture: honor, dignity, and victim.

Honor Culture:

These are types of culture in which people (mainly men) maintain their honor by responding to insults, slights, and violations of rights by self-help violence. “Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or non-existent, and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack,” write Campbell and Manning. They note that honor cultures still exist in the Arab world and among street gangs in Western societies. (Fans of Sci-Fi would know that Klingons are all about this kind of culture.)

Dignity Culture:

During the 19th century, most Western societies began the moral transition toward dignity cultures in which all citizens are legally endowed with equal rights. Dignity does not depend upon reputation but exists as unalienable rights that do not depend on what other people think of one’s bravery. Having a thick skin and shrugging off slights become virtues because they help maintain social peace. The aphorism that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is practically the motto of dignity cultures.

Campbell and Manning add, “Insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery. [Furthermore], when intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions.”

Victim Culture:

And just so we have a definition, in a victim culture individuals and groups display high sensitivity to anything that conflicts with them. When they have a conflict, they have a tendency to handle the conflict through complaints to third parties (such as cops, blogs, petitions, and the government) and seek to cultivate an image of being victims who deserve assistance.

Victim Cultures – Are They Good or Bad?

At the end of Conor’s article, he asks if Dignity Culture is better than Victim Culture. At face value, I think that it’s kind of hard to tell. If you see wrongs in the world and want to do something about them, the easiest way to do that is to play the victim. It is effective and I think that’s why so many people have started doing it.

That said, does that make it right?

If you want to correct a social imbalance perhaps at the price of your own personal freedom, it just might seem like the most effective way to do it. If that’s what you believe is right, then sure. I guess it’s right from that perspective.

However, if you’re like me, and you don’t want the outside world to define you (and you especially don’t want your personal freedoms taken), then the first thing you have to realize is that playing the victim card puts a stereotypical label on you. That label might be that you’re weak, that you’re ignorant, or you just might be Chicken Little (the sky is falling!).

This is why the Dignity Culture is called what it is. In the dignity culture’s perspective, people who cry that they are a victim lack dignity. They feel that victim’s lack self-respect and a sense of pride. To a point, this is understandable. No one likes a tattle-tale. So people who continually cry wolf are eventually going to wear out their welcome.

Not only that, but often times you can see the victim become the bully. In one instance, one group might see the first group getting preferred treatment due to their victimization. That second group might feel belittled themselves. Another instance might be that the victim now feels that they have a right to act a certain way. That if others do it to them, then they’re allowed to do it to others.

To me, I can’t say that the Dignity Culture is better than the Victim Culture. I think both have some good and negative traits to them. There are times when Whistleblowing needs to occur. In a straight Dignity Culture, it would never happen. People would be told to suck it up regardless of whatever occurred. However, if someone is repeatedly using the victim card to get things that they believed are entitled to them, they need to get a better understanding of what Rights and Privileges are.

Don’t Take Things Personal – Learn to Live through Forgiving

So how does this all relate to living a happier life and a more fulfilling career? It’s actually pretty simple.

The more things that we trust third parties to solve the less power we give ourselves. The less power we give ourselves, the less potential our life will have. Unless we expect third parties to give things to us, we must work for them ourselves.

To work for things takes energy. So does holding in negative energy towards others. The more negative energy you hold in, the more you taint yourself with that energy. In the end, negative energy consumes your true self and your true potential. Learn to forgive so you don’t let the “bad guys” win.

Homework:

Are you holding any grudges? If so, ask why you hold them. Is it from something that happened last week? Last month? Or last decade? How long is enough to punish yourself with those emotions. The longer you let other people get to you, the longer they’ve “won”.

If you’ve let go of some grudges, let us hear about them below and how you’ve felt since releasing that self-imposed stress.

Why We Procrastinate and What You Can Do About It

Procrastination. Wow, if you wanted to talk about what has been my Achilles’ heel since college (and even before then)… it’s probably this. I’ve been doing a lot of research lately in trying to figure out a fix for my procrastination. And what I’ve come to find is that there is indeed a reason for why we procrastinate. In a nutshell, the following video by Vik Nithy shows the psychological reasoning behind why we do it:

If that description is too analytical for you, then you can find a drawn out and very relatable version here.

The Gist of Why We Procrastinate

There are two parts of your brain (literally and figuratively) that are at odds with each other when it comes to getting stuff done. You have a smart part, and a dumb part.

The smart one, which holds your personality and all of your good intentions, is telling you that you have something that needs to be done.

However, the dumb one, well, all it wants to do is just surf the web, play video games, or go screw around outside. Funny enough, part of it is in charge of decision making, play, and panicking.

It also doesn’t help that the dumb one also stores the factory of Dopamine. And let me tell you something about it… Dopamine is a hell of a drug. Gaming to me in the past might almost be as good as cocaine. (For more info on why people do cocaine: Cocaine stimulating Dopamine release.)

So, obviously, the fight between the smart part of your brain vs the dumb part is actually kind of won before it even starts if our brain is more receptive to short term rewards than long term ones.

In short, the more you’ve given in to short term rewards in the past, the more your brain is literally addicted to their effects – whether or not you had long term goals or not.

Three Steps We Can Use to Effectively Battle Procrastination

In the video above, Vik talks about 6 key things you must do to battle procrastination:

  • Plan Goals
  • Plan Time
  • Plan Resources
  • Plan the Process
  • Plan for Distractions
  • Plan for Failure

I’m going to kind of theme them together in three steps so that it’s something you do a little more automatically when you’re trying to avoid procrastination when starting a new project.

You want to do something? First, you need to research the hell out of it. What do top experts say in doing that? What does it look like when you’re done? Is it worth your time in pursuing it? This is how you start planning your process. The dumb part of your brain should have no difficulty looking this stuff up – especially if it’s something you have a passion to do. (If it does, you might need to plan this phase out too.)

As part of your process planning, figure out what you have and don’t have to get the job done. Are you trying to learn a new language? A new skill? Do some inventory checking and get those missing things of what you’re going to need. (It might be as simple as downloading an app!)

Effective Journaling and Planning Your Week takes care of goals and time. However, as you’re planning out your week to work on a project or your months to work on a new skill, I’d plan for almost twice as long to get the thing accomplished.  You’re going to run into some bumps in the road (failures and distractions). Either the dogs will want to go out three times during your project or the kids might want for you to go watch them at their baseball game in the 2nd week of your training. But when you’re done with those distractions, you’ll come back and be able to get right back on track because you’ll have your goals written down.

Homework:

So the next time you’re wanting to do something, be it recording a podcast, or even learning how to ride a bike at the age of 34, I want you to see if you can set yourself up from inception to completion: Research, plan and journal your activities. Come back and let me know how it works out for you! Or, if you’ve already implemented it, drop a comment below.

Extra Points: Identify what kind of procrastinator you are here. If it doesn’t exist, name it and let us know why you came up with that name.

How to Be More Influential By Adding Great Value to Others

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” – Dr. Ben Carson

“People don’t know how much you know until you show how much you care.” – Dr. John C. Maxwell

Two of my favorite quotes. You know that people will listen if you share knowledge that helps them. Want to go a little further and get some influence? Add some value to their lives. In today’s post, we’ll be talking about how you can be more influential with people by bringing them value.

So what did you learn from that? Hopefully you got the impression that giving value is important in sales. You say you’re not in sales? O contraire! You definitely are!

Did you know that every day people are selling themselves? Whether it’s a salesperson doing a direct sale or an engineer with a proposal for a project, or a mother trying to get her kid to eat vegetables, everyone is selling. Everyone is thinking about how they’re going to influence their audience (the customer, the client, or kid) to buy their product or services, or eat carrots.

One of the largest difference makers in making that sale is whether or not that person has influence on their audience.

As Jeffrey said, he tries to give value first… and that’s what gets you influence.

Which is much different than what a lot of people do today. Instead of looking for the win-win, they’re looking for the “how can I use this person”? The person who is looking for the win-win is looking how to give value. The second type is taking value. The first one is the influencer while the second one, I think, is the persuader… the manipulator.

Giving Value in our Daily Lives

Before we talk about giving value in our professional life, let’s just make sure we get a better idea of what giving value means for sure. Something simple. Nothing drastic.

If you were to give value in something that you’re already doing right now, how would you do that? You might be thinking that you’d have to start thinking and acting differently than you currently do. But would you really? I’m sure there’s things in your life that you’re already doing for others that give them value. For instance, while I’m the guy of the household, and traditionally men supposedly don’t cook, I know that I can bring value by being the person who cooks dinner on a regular basis.

Think about something you might be good at that you could use to benefit those around you. Believe me, it’ll help later.

Giving Value In our Careers

In the professional space, you might think that people are looking to get ahead of each other by beating each other down. By stealing ideas and contacts. It’s total competition out there – even in the same company. People are trying to beat each other for that next position. So you have to take what you can get! When the boss asks you a question, you better respond with a “Yes, sir!” response.

Right?

Wrong.

First off, that’s not a very confident mindset. People will notice that you’re afraid of the workplace if you have that kind of perspective. So let’s try to look at things from another perspective. One of collaboration.

For one, instead of using that quick to respond with definite answers, let’s try to answer questions with questions. Obviously we don’t want to make it obvious. But let’s try to dig deeper for something that will be a better solution instead of something that’s a quick fix. The more you know about a certain subject, the more thorough you can be about about your solution.

A way you can do that, for example, is enter any meeting that you have with 4 questions that you want to get answered:

What are the goals (short and long term)?

Who is the audience?

What is the capabilities of your group and/or department?

How do you measure success?

As you become a person who helps think things out (as opposed to going to the know it all quick fix), people start coming to you for help.

Another way that you can add value to people is being what’s know as The Connector (as Malcolm Gladwell calls them) or the Linchpin (as Seth Godin refers to them).

The idea of this particular person is that they’re a main hub of a certain network of people. They’re the ones who can carry out a conversation with someone from one year to next without ever acting like time has passed. Generally speaking, these people know where they met someone and what they were doing at the time.

If this sounds like you or you want to become one, I recommend reading The Tipping Point and/or Linchpin to find out more.

The third way that you can add value, or even if you’re unsure, is to ask yourself these three questions:

Is what I’m doing or the acts that I’m performing different but also includes ideas that other people from the group have thought about? (You don’t want to come off as being too maverick!)

Is this a great contribution? Is this work something I’ve strived for excellence in? (Don’t half ass your work. Remember the Agreement: Always do Your Best)

Do I really care about what I did? Did I see this in perspective of helping other people? (Again, think about the quote at the beginning of this post.)

 

Homework:

The next time you want to influence your peers, family, or audience, think about how you’re going to add value to them. What is something only you can provide to the group? A perspective? Experiences? Make sure you’re providing that information not because you want to manipulate but because you want to truly help. You’d be surprised what will happen as time goes on.

5 Surefire Ways to Improve Your Personal Strengths

 

One of the things that I believe is necessary for people to perform at a high performance level on their life journey is to become aware of what they’re naturally good at in life. I’ve mentioned several books that you can learn about this with (StrengthFinders and Standout are my top two), but this really is the beginning of your journey.

The next step of leveling up in life is working on these strengths. In the video above, John mentions that you need to focus on your strengths and not on your weaknesses. However, he doesn’t exactly say how you can do that.

Here are some strategies that I’ve used in the past which will help you improve your personal strengths.

Gain Experience

When I was a kid, one of the coolest things to look forward to during the school year was when we would go on field trips. I think as a kid, you want to go because it’s a change of scenery from the regular class room. Also, the longer it took to get to the destination, so that meant more time you had on the bus to mess around.

Those days were awesome.

Looking back, though, I think those field trips had more lasting impressions on me on what I remembered than talking about the same thing in class. Was it because of the change of the routine? Sure. Perhaps that’s what started the the vivid memories, but being fully engaged in the environment I’m sure helped as well. Whether it was a trip to the Children’s Museum in Indy to study dinosaurs, or a trip to Metamora to learn about canals and to ride a train, those were the days that very particular memories have stuck with me.

Later in college I had lab segments for many of my courses. Professors said that these sections were for hands on learning. Well, I’ll tell you, I was horrible at many of the in class activities we had. (I was so horrible in lab that I came close to failing most practicals!)

However, thinking back now I realize that if it wasn’t for the lab section of many of my undergrad courses, that I wouldn’t have done as well in the rest of the course.

In both situations, I can think back now and realize how important those times were, even though (especially in the case of the lab sections) the material stretched me a little bit. Today, I compare many of the road trips I’ve been on with my past field trips. Likewise, when it comes to doing things that I’ve never done, I can think about the labs that I was in and think “Well, I know nothing can be that bad!”.

In the end, it’s that hard earned experience that will launch you further than if you just passively heard about it. It gives you confidence that you know what’s going to come up around the bend. Having dealt with similar situations before really helps you be confident in that you can handle whatever you’re doing with ease. And it also means that you can share something with others about how it went last time.

Get Feedback

Verification is key. Just ask any comedian.

Do you know why comedians are really funny when you just hear about them and then later they’re not as much? It’s because until the point where you’ve heard them, they’ve probably been working on that same joke routine for 5 to 15 years! From small audience to larger audience, to finally getting noticed by Comedy Central and then possibly on to sitcoms – they’re working on the same material.

After the Comedy Central Special has aired or the sitcom has run its course, what happens to these successful comedians? Many would say they go underground.  It could be that, sure. Another thought is that they haven’t had time to get their new material as polished as their old stuff… or they just don’t feel the need to!

Similarly, when you’re doing an activity that utilizes your strengths, make sure you’re asking for feedback. For one, it makes you better at your strengths. And two, it might just keep you relevant to your potential audience!

Keep a Journal (Write Stuff Down)

Ok, so as you might be aware, I recently started writing down weekly plans. This has been game changing and I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks now. I now know why teachers have to lesson plan. It’s amazing the difference of work you can get done when you plan out when you’re going to work and get stuff down.

On top of this, I’m also keeping ideas down as part of my daily journaling. Journaling is just as important as the weekly planning because it’s really easy to later examine what you’ve already done.

Writing things down is also important because it just stares back at you. It doesn’t change. You can keep coming back to it and adding. Obviously, the opposite of that, simply speaking things and trying to remember them… is not so functional. It’s real easy to go from one idea to the next. Never really planning anything out.

Just get things recorded and you’ll later be able to act on them or make them better. (In fact, a recommendation that Pat has is using sticky notes if you’re looking to brainstorm. He does this for books.)

Participate in a Mastermind (or another type of study group)

Think tanks, masterminds, roundtables, or simply small groups – whatever you call them – can be huge. Not only do you get the benefit of immediate feedback, but you also have the benefit of multiple people contributing to making each other better. Throwing an idea out and reflecting upon it with a group is obviously going to have much better results than you just working on it yourself or with one other individual.

Follow in the Footsteps of Others

One of the sayings that I’ve heard over and over about being mentored and/or coached on a strength is that particular mentor or coach has probably seen it before. So the question is, “Do you want to find the land mines yourself or would you like to know where they are and get through the path faster?”

Personally, I’d like to know where the potential problems are going to be and learn from others about them.

To do this, you can either personally interact with someone 1on1 (probably expensive) or you can spend time reading books and online resources that they have produced. Either way, just one hour a day spent towards using these resources will help you grow a great deal. Depending on the topic, after a month or so, the results of study and fine tuning start compounding and you’ll notice a great difference.

Homework

Ever since I started on my self development path back in 2006, I’ve believed that we should focus on growing our strengths, and get help on our weaknesses. Once you figure out what your strengths are (again, I’m a Connector and a Teacher according to Standout), work on gaining experience doing those strengths, getting feedback, keeping a journal, participating in groups, and studying great resources. You’ll find that your efforts in these areas will pay great dividends in your personal growth.

If you have already started developing your strengths, I’d love to hear how you did it. Was it one of the ways above or something completely different?